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When you’re dealing with the hot summers and freezing winters in Minnesota, it’s a good idea to have two sets of tires to swap between. You might be wondering what’s the best time to change out your summer or all-season tires for winter tires, and back again. Here’s a quick guide on how to do just that!
When to change to winter tires in the fall
Winter tires have a lot of special components that make them great at holding onto traction on icy, cold, or snowy roads. They’re different from all-season tires, and more grippy (= better starting, stopping, and cornering!) at temperatures below freezing.
As a general rule of thumb, you should switch from summer or “all-season” tires to winter tires when the typical air temperature when you are driving falls to 45 degrees or lower. Even if it’s hitting 60 during the day, if you’re only driving in colder mornings and evenings, that’s the temperature you should look at.
Winter tires will stand up to being used in temperatures higher than this, but they won’t be at their best. Just don’t put them on yet if you’re still expecting 80-degree days.
Winter tires improve your grip in cold conditions by using a special rubber compound that works better at lower temperatures. It doesn’t harden the way the rubber in summer tires does, so you get better traction even when temperatures go below freezing. They also use features called sipes to give you better grip on icy, snowy, or wet surfaces. Sipes are tiny slits in the tire’s tread block, which open up as the tire rolls. They take in water or snow and remove it from the contact patch of the tire, giving you better traction!
Keep an eye on the weather in your area, and be sure to check the roads near your destination if you plan on traveling long distances. Remember that falling temperatures can damage your summer tires, even if you don’t see any ice on the roads yet!
Even on dry roads, cold weather will make the rubber compound in summer tires harden and lose grip, which means they won’t perform as well. And once the snow starts to stick around, you’ll want to break out your winter tires along with your snow shovel.
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FAQ: Will driving with winter tires in the summer damage them?
Driving in real heat (80 degrees+) will almost certainly damage your winter tires and cause them to wear out very quickly. The rubber will become very soft as the temperature increases. Think of a pencil eraser. However, during the changing of the seasons, you don’t need to be too worried, even with Minnesota’s dramatic temperature variance in the spring and fall. A few days reaching into the 60s should not cause much harm to your tires, especially if you avoid agressive driving and stop-and-go tailgating.
Be warned though, that braking performance and handling could suffer already in the 60-degree range.
The better a tire is at extreme cold temperatures, the worse it will be at handling extreme heat, and driving with winter tires in July is not a good idea.
When to switch to summer tires in the spring
Switching from winter to summer tires isn’t based on a particular date, it’s based on the temperatures and road conditions.
You should switch to summer tires when the roads are clear, the forecast is averaging 45 degrees or higher during the times you drive, and below-freezing temperatures are unlikely. In these conditions, your summer tires will give you better performance than winter tires.
FAQ: Will driving with summer tires in the winter damage them?
Driving with summer tires in winter might damage them, and is extremely dangerous. However, if you’ve already switched to summer tires, and an unexpected cold day with 30 degrees comes along, your tires will almost certainly be fine. Just be careful of road conditions and your own safety.
When temperatures become significantly too low for a given tire, a point known as the “glass point”,the rubber compounds harden. Think of water turning into ice: the difference is not as dramatic, but it’s a starting point for a comparison. As a result of the physical changes, grip is significantly reduced.
Temperatures too far below what a tire is designed for can cause compound cracking. The better a tire is in heat, the worse it will be in the cold. (This is why all-season tires can’t quite truly “do it all”.)
Tires in St. Paul, MN
If you have more questions or you’re in need of new tires, give us a call to order or learn more about our tire services!